Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for August 4th, 2021

Portraits from our yard: episode 5

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It’s hard to beat the rich red of a Turk’s cap flower, Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii. The long stamen column identifies this flower as a member of the mallow family. Today’s picture, like those of Turk’s cap buds you recently saw, is from July 15th.

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By the time I was a senior in high school I’d gotten hold of a copy of Le petit prince, The Little Prince, the famous fantasy/allegory written and illustrated by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I no longer remember where I got it; maybe from the Salvation Army, where I often bought used books on the cheap. The copy was missing its cover and title pages but all the text was intact. I remember taking the book to school and reading some of it as I held it under my desk in physics class; that’s the kind of kid I was.

After close to 60 years I still have that book. You can tell, because I’ve reproduced one of its yellowing pages. The first part of that page teaches an important lesson, so let me translate it for you.

I’ve got serious reasons for thinking that the planet the little prince came from is Asteroid B 612. That asteroid was observed by telescope only once, in 1909, by a Turkish astronomer.

Back then he’d made a big presentation of his discovery at an International Congress of Astronomy. But nobody believed him because of the way he was dressed [see the illustration at the top left of the page]. Grownups are like that.

Happily for the reputation of Asteroid B 612, a Turkish dictator ordered his people, under pain of death, to dress in European clothing. The astronomer redid his demonstration in 1920 wearing a very elegant suit [see the illustration at the bottom of the page]. And this time everyone agreed with him.

That passage illustrates a fallacy known as an ad hominem argument, from the Latin words meaning ‘against the person.’ Instead of dealing with the substance of a claim and examining the evidence for it, detractors attack the person making the claim, typically on irrelevant grounds like the person’s race or appearance or background or other beliefs.

I bring that up now because of the surge in ad hominem attacks being carried out in the media and politics these days. There are people who immediately dismiss a claim made by someone they don’t like, peremptorily labeling it “misinformation” or “disinformation” or “a conspiracy theory,” and refusing to examine the evidence, however substantial, for the claim itself. The most vehement slinging of those labels comes from people who know that the claim is true.

Grownups are like that, alas, far too often.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 4, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Posted in nature photography

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